This announcement is being reported differently in different outlets. The actual text of the announcement so far (a Ministerial statement will follow later today) is as below. There is a clear reference to reuniting children in Europe with refugee family members already in the UK, which is very much to be welcomed. The UK has been very keen to remove asylum seekers to other EU states using the Dublin Conventions but has been unwilling to accept relocation to the UK under the same rules.
UPDATE: Ministerial statement now available.
UK TO OFFER SANCTUARY TO UNACCOMPANIED REFUGEE CHILDREN FROM CONFLICT REGIONS
– UK to work with UNHCR on new initiative to resettle unaccompanied refugee children from conflict regions such as Syria to the UK.
– Department for International Development to create a new fund of up to £10 million to support the needs of vulnerable refugee and migrant children in Europe.
– New measures to complement existing substantial UK aid and resettlement programmes.
The UK Government has asked the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to lead on a new initiative to resettle unaccompanied refugee children from conflict regions, the Immigration Minister James Brokenshire, will today (Thursday 28 January) announce.
The UNHCR, who have experts working in the countries surrounding Syria and other conflict zones around the world, have been asked to identify exceptional cases of unaccompanied children whose needs cannot be met in the region and whose best interests would be met through protection in the UK.
The Department for International Development will also create a new fund of up to £10 million to support the needs of vulnerable refugee and migrant children in Europe.
The fund will include targeted support to meet the specific needs of unaccompanied and separated children who face additional risks and the support will likely be delivered through a range of NGOs and UN agencies.
In addition, the UK Government will commit to providing further resource to the European Asylum Support Office to help Greece and Italy identify migrants, including children, who could be reunited with direct family members elsewhere in Europe under the Dublin Regulation. Where it is in their best interests, this will include bringing them to the UK.
The UK Government has been at the forefront of the international response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and this new initiative builds on the Government’s existing commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrians during this Parliament, through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Programme.
More than 1,000 vulnerable Syrians, including children, have already resettled through the scheme and the Government has already pledged over £1.1 billion in humanitarian aid to Syria and neighbouring countries, making it the second largest bilateral donor after the US.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said:
“The UK government takes its responsibility in asylum cases involving children very seriously. Ensuring their welfare and safety is at the heart of every decision made.
“The crisis in Syria and events in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond has separated a large number of refugee children from their families.
“The vast majority are better off staying in the region so they can be reunited with surviving family members. So we have asked the UNHCR to identify the exceptional cases where a child’s best interests are served by resettlement to the UK and help us to bring them here.”
The Government is also doing more to provide support for unaccompanied asylum seeking children who are already in the UK and have been subject to trafficking and/or exploitation.
The Home Office will work with NGOs, local authorities and the Department for Education to review current practices and consider how they could be strengthened.